Fifth Ward residents say community garden started by former councilmember attracts flies, rodents and other pests

Here's what we know

FIFTH WARD – Neighbors in a Fifth Ward neighborhood said they want the rodent and fly infestation coming from a community garden to go.

“Look at all the flies,” said Rodney Thomas. “They’re all over the yard.”

Thomas said he’s had a fly infestation on his hands for the last two years. Thomas lives in the 2200 block of Leffingwell Street. He said the pests, which have included rodents, were coming from a neighborhood community garden next door. The garden was a passion project of former Houston City Council Member Jerry Davis to bring food to the neighborhood.

“I don’t think that’s right for me to have to live that with a fly infestation that you see at a livestock place,” Thomas said. “He’s been cited several times by the board of health, several neighbors, 311 and he will not clean it up.”

Thomas questioned why a garden, that’s supposed to be open to the community, had three locks on its fence.

“It’s not open to the community,” Thomas said. “He’s been using it to store chickens and things in there and that’s what’s causing a lot of problems.”

Angel Farias lives across the street. Farias said their complaints to various city of Houston entities, and Davis himself, about foul odors and pests, have fallen on deaf ears.

“To me, it was just the lack of understanding on his behalf and that sense of entitlement... ‘Well, I’m Jerry Davis.’ I kinda got the impression that he could do as he wants,” Farias said.

KPRC2 spoke to Davis as he visited the property, which he said is being leased by the Houston Land Bank. Davis said he could have done a better job with the upkeep of the property, but disputes the garden is what was attracting the pests.

“We have not brought any rodents over there. I mean the rodents are here in this area right here,” Davis said.

BARC tells KPRC2 they cited the property twice in 2021 for chickens, which attracted rodents and flies. The city’s animal shelter said the chickens have since been removed and the property is in good condition and was not in any violations as of Monday.

“Yes, I did have some chickens here and I was told we’re not in compliance, we’re too close to the building, and before that, we were giving people eggs,” he said.

Davis said the community garden was open to the public in the past when there was grant funding.

“We’ve done composting, we’ve done trash, recycling. We’ve done all these things on the property,” he said of some of the amenities that were open to the community in the past. “Now, we can’t be open all the time because it’s a liability.”

Davis said he has not been able to write any grants and is using his own money to help upkeep and expand the community garden.

He said due to the creosote soil issue from the Union Pacific Railroad in the Fifth Ward, he’s shifting away from traditional gardening to hydroponic gardening for the community. He said grant funding would help to get water and electricity on the property.